Safety, it’s said, is its own reward. True enough, but without proactive efforts to identify good safety practices and to recognize successful accomplishments in achieving and maintaining safety in the workplace, there is little to encourage or instruct executives, managers, and operators to improve the safety standards and practices where they work.

Safety, it’s also said, is everyone’s concern. That’s also true, but not all safety programs are equal.

Each year the Forging Industry Assn. surveys its producer member companies in order to identify the operations where the safety programs have performed best or improved the most. The FIA’s annual Safety Awards are presented to forging companies in each of four groups, according to average annual employment. Group I includes companies with up to 80 employees, Group II includes companies with 81 to 175 employees, Group III represents companies with 176 to 325 employees, and Group IV includes companies with more 326 employees and more.

First-, second-, and third-place Safety Award plaques are given in each group for companies having the lowest Recordable Cases Incidence Rate, provided that the DART (Days Away from work, work Restrictions, or job Transfer cases) Incidence Rate falls below the group average. In the event that Recordable Incidence Rates are equal, the committee uses the lower DART Incidence Rate to determine the award.

Improvement Awards are given in each group for the company that demonstrated the greatest decrease in the DART Incidence Rate. This award is determined by the percentage of improvement by DART Incidence Rate compared with the average of the last three years.

A certificate of recognition is awarded to each company that does not earn a first-, second-, or third-place rank, and where the Recordable Incidence Rate falls below the group average — provided that the DART Incidence Rate also falls below the group average.

The information for the competition is gathered from questionnaires mailed annually to all FIA producer members. Producer members provide the data recorded on OSHA Form No. 300, “Summary of Occupational Injuries/ Illnesses for Calendar Year” for U.S. companies, and from Worker’s Compensation Reports for Canadian companies on the questionnaires. Completed returns provide the basis not only for the Annual Safety and Health Awards, but also for FIA’s Annual Occupational Injury & Illness Report.

Two rates are computed for each participant: DART Incidence Rate, and Frequency Rate. The published report provides a summary for the total industry and detailed company rankings, according to the Incidence Rate by size groups. Each participant will fall within one of four size categories, according to four groups based on average annual employment. The number of employees is based on the entire forging operation for the company, plant, or division being reported, including executive, administrative, clerical, sales, maintenance, and production.

To collect some insight to the strategies behind successful safety programs in forging operations, we approached all of 2011’s first-ranking award winners with some questions about their experience, their observations, and their challenges.